Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What do we believe when we believe we believe?


 You are sitting in the workroom of your optometrist, whose intent is to use one or more devices to measure to his satisfaction the fit of a new brand of contact lenses.  Even though his partner was the reason you became a patient at this facility, because of her interest in music, this doctor has become your favorite because of his overt Buddhism approach to the world about us.

In a matter of moments you are confiding that these instruments remind you how vital point of view is to story, whereupon he reminds you of a conversation during your last visit where he’d asked you to read the top row of a chart and you, not seeing the chart, allowed that you saw nothing, propelling us immediately into Buddhist concepts.

Today you were acute to the fact that the measuring devices had a range of adjustment reflecting the entire range of human vision, a range you envy because you want only some of the characters you create to have the same vision you do.

For starters, you are farsighted, meaning you can see items at a distance with greater clarity than those closer to hand.  This factor alone has some effect on how your creations take in, process, then act out dramatic information.

You are still suffering from having pushed the wrong calibrating device on the peanut-grinding machine at Whole Foods, resulting in a pint container of creamy peanut butter, which is better than no peanut butter but nearly so good as chunky peanut butter.

Calibrations come into play at every step you take, reminding you of the diversity of potential for agreement and disagreement, for the appearance of disagreement and wide shades of taste among individuals.  Somehow, after the doctor agreeing that your lenses fit, as they ought, you found yourself in another agreement relative to learning.  There is more enigma and potential for mischief than for accord and congruence where human experience is concerned.

Buddhism arrives in full regalia again.  Do you possess experience as such or are you merely a witness to it?

A dear, longtime chum with whom you cohosted writing workshops and participated in entertainment mystery plays in which the audience guesses who the murderer is, before he moved off to Provo, Utah, has returned for the writers’ conference.  You meet for dinner, slide into the old habits of friendship, and realize you should also meet tomorrow morning for breakfast.  Your office at the university is scant yards from his wife’s former office when she chaired the drama department, an aspect of the small world of coincidence point of view.  While you are speaking of your experience with the optometrist, your chum laughs and recounts the ongoing argument he and his wife have when they discuss the events and seating arrangement when they first met.  He believes he was already seated when she entered and sat behind him.  Her vision is of her being seated and him entering, then taking a seat in the row in front of her.  Thus all the necessary equipment is in place for story.  All it needs is an occasion to bring out the disagreement, dust it off, and exacerbate it to a point where it combusts.

Combustion is an energized meeting in which an object is transformed from one state to another through the introduction of oxidant.

Two or more characters are transformed from one state to another through the introduction of an attempt at conciliation or, better still, reconciliation.

Tony Webster, the first-person narrator of Julian Barnes’s remarkable novel, The Sense of an Ending, is confronted by a rather angry woman, then told that he doesn’t get it.  The “it” in this case is the implications of a set of events everyone else in the story does seem to get, making us, the readers, wonder, speculate, challenge our puzzle-solving abilities to see if we got “it” which is the story, the backstory, and the dramatic/emotional payoff.

Although this is a mountain goat leap of logic, the modern story becomes the combustible element created in the ambiguity of interpretation between two or more characters and the reader/audience, who believe they know what happened, then fall to arguing about it when the story is over.


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